Birmingham merger approved to form one of England’s biggest trusts

The merger of Birmingham’s two largest hospital trusts is to go ahead from Sunday, it has been revealed.

The trusts’ boards of directors have given the green light to the merger, and both councils of governors have cleared the decision.

University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Queens Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, will join Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust (HEFT), which manages Heartlands, Good Hope and Solihull hospitals, under the new plans.

The merger was initially proposed in September 2016, and had been under consideration by the government’s Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) for several months before it was cleared in August 2017.

The CMA concluded that although the merger may give rise to competition concerns across a number of elective specialties, these were outweighed by the substantial improvements to patient care that is expected to arise as a result of the plans.

Significant weight was placed on NHS Improvement’s advice on provable benefits.

NHS Improvement had advised the CMA that HEFT has experienced sustained difficulties in governance, quality of care and finances since 2012, which it said successive management teams had been unable to address.

In addition, the regulator advised that the appointment of UHB management to HEFT’s executive team in October 2015 had already produced a number of benefits, including reduced waiting times and improvements in the quality and safety of patient care for HEFT patients, but warned that without the merger these improvements and a number of other long-term benefits would disappear.

Without the merger, the CMA found the HEFT would be a relatively weak competitor to UHB, and that both trusts were experiencing capacity constraints.

This new single trust will form one of the largest trust’s in England, treating more than 2.2 million patients each year, with more than 2,700 beds across its sites, and an estimated annual turnover of £1.6bn.

All individual hospital and clinic names will remain the same, and the new trust will use the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) name.

The Jacqui Smith, chair of UHB and interim chair of HEFT, said that it has taken a “huge amount of preparation and planning to ensure the new organisation can provide the best possible healthcare to the population we serve,” in order to gain the final approval for the merger.

Dame Julie Moore, chief executive of UHB and interim chief executive of HEFT, explained: “The combined expertise of the two trusts will benefit all of our patients and bring added benefits to the local health economy that could not be otherwise achieved.”

Top image:David Jones PA

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